River Steward Stories - Tom Derry

Conservation and wild Fish are two things found deep in Tom Derry’s heart. His passion and willingness to give back is portrayed through his work as a Molalla River Steward and the Director of Wild Steelhead Fundraising with the Native Fish Society.

Tom grew up in Portland, Oregon where he longed for days in the out of doors. In 1980, Tom moved to Camp Sherman, Oregon on the Metolius River where he owned and operated the Kokanee Café with his beloved wife Connie. He became involved in conservation on the Metolius and Deschutes rivers where he strived to restore and protect the wild trout that inhibited these beautiful watersheds.

In 1997, Tom and Connie sold the café and moved to the banks of the Molalla River. Although new at the time, Tom and Connie had history on these beloved riverbanks. They exchanged their marriage vows on the river’s edge close to the small cabin Tom’s family owned during his childhood. His love for this river had deep roots instilled from a young age.

Immediately, Tom immersed himself in conservation and protecting the Molalla’s pristine waters. As a tributary to the Willamette Basin, the historic populations of anadromous fish are often overlooked and underappreciated. In 2002, Tom discovered a gravel mine proposal on the upper portions of the Molalla River. He took action contacting conservation groups and organizations that could help advocate for and protect the Molalla River.

Bill Bakke, Executive Director and founder of Native Fish Society, joined Tom in his efforts to oppose the gravel mine. Bakke developed a strategy and Tom, along with other local advocates, supported this work. Their collaboration was the start of Tom Derry’s journey and success with Native Fish Society. Through hard work and determination, Tom and the Native Fish Society were able to eliminate the proposed gravel mine, protecting his cherished homewaters.

After that, Tom took over the funding and membership portion for NFS. Recently, he and a coalition of conservation groups were able to highlight the poor water quality impacting the river from the disposal of municipal effluent. Their consistent push to provide cool, clean water for the fish and environment ended with compensation close to $200,000 to use on river enhancement programs. These funds have provided numerous positive outcomes to the Molalla basin, specifically the research that identifies cold-water refuges in small side channels. These areas are sanctuaries for juvenile fish and smolts making the long, dangerous journey to the Pacific Ocean. Tom is excited to see results and utilize the findings to frame his future conservation strategy on the Molalla River.

When not volunteering or working with Native Fish Society, Tom loves to be on the water. Over the years, he has fished throughout the world with some of the most influential people involved in the sport of fly fishing. When at home, Tom enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife working in the garden.

River Stewards and volunteers are the cornerstone foundation for the Native Fish Society. It is their passion and stewardship that allows our organization to be successful. We work to support and provide our volunteers with the tools and advice necessary to steward their homewaters and communities.

If you’re interested in a specific watershed or would like to volunteer with Native Fish Society please email us today. It’s passionate, dedicated volunteers that will lead the effort to restore thriving local waters for people and the environment.

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